When you began your new novel, Father of the Rain, what was the initial idea or image that got the story rolling?
I think it started with the puppy, a father buying his daughter a puppy that she wouldn't be able to keep because she knew, though he didn't, that she would be moving out of the house with her mother in a week. And her choice of the ugliest puppy, so that it wouldn't be even harder to leave. Once I got the puppy in the car, the rest of the first chapter came quickly: the mother with the group of city kids in the pool, the father scheming to sabotage the moment in some way, and the daughter trying to please them both at the same time, all the while carrying around this tremendous secret that her mother was about to leave the marriage.
In The English Teacher you explored a complex mother/son relationship. With Father of the Rain, you have turned your attention to a father/daughter relationship. What caused you to turn your attention to father/daughter?
I guess I wasn't quite done with all the bad parenting possibilities! I am very interested in father/daughter relationships, and I don't think they get equal play in fiction. There are certainly a great many mother/daughter and father/son novels out there, and a good many mother/son ones, too. But not many father/daughter ones come to mind. Several years ago, I read a parenting book that claimed, with all sorts of studies to back up this claim, that women get their self-esteem almost solely through their relationship with their father. Given that our society, and our world, is still quite patriarchal, it makes sense that a man's opinion of you is what is going to matter more. Just a few days ago I found one of the first notes to myself that I ever wrote about this novel. There were possible scene ideas, and then at the bottom it said: "The way we were treated by our father is the way we expect the world to treat us." Father of the Rain is one woman's efforts to escape that fate.
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This article was originally published in August 2010, and has been updated for the
May 2011 paperback release.
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